Holy maneki neko! What a tournament that was, ne? I think it’s pretty safe to say that NO ONE predicted the drama that just played out over the past two weeks. Goodness knows that my predictions were WAY off target! But then, who COULD predict that Goeido, who for the past two years has been the weakest of the ozeki, would bounce back from his kadoban status to have a perfect 15–0 record and win a zensho yusho (something that had NEVER been done in the centuries-long history of sumo)?
Just as unlikely, though, is that Kisenosato, after performing at yokozuna level all year long, would falter in this, his greatest chance to finally win a tournament (since Hakuho was absent) and get the yokozuna promotion he has sought for so long. Indeed, with Goeido’s win yesterday, we have the almost unfathomable situation that Kisenosato is the ONLY current ozeki who HASN’T won a yusho . . . despite the fact that he’s clearly the strongest among them (and generally performs stronger than yokozuna Kakuryu), and has been for two years or more. But the standards are clear. It doesn’t matter how strong a rikishi you are, you can’t be a yokozuna until you’ve won a couple of tournaments. It’s just such a weird turn of events that if Goeido has another dominant performance in November, he could succeed where Kisenosato hasn’t been able to.
The most disappointing performance of the tournament was certainly Terunofuji’s, who for the second time this year had double-digit losses. Now, clearly, the big guy is injured and won’t give himself time to heal. More problematic, though, is that he’s publicly denying that injury has anything to do with it. In his post-basho interview, Terunofuji said, “I lost because I was weak. My training was insufficient.” Now, it’s entirely possible that he’s just spouting the macho crap that rikishi are supposed to say to the press. But if he really DOES believe that, his career is going to crash and burn inside two years. He’s hurt, plain and simple, and his body needs time to recuperate.
Of course, Terunofuji isn’t the only rikishi with that problem. I hope that Hakuho, Tochinoshin, Ikioi, Osunaarashi, and yes, even my much maligned Ichinojo all spend most of the time between now and November’s Kyushu Basho healing. Heck, I’d even be okay with them skipping another tournament in the name of long-term health. I want 2017 to be filled with all my favorite rikishi fighting at the top of their abilities!
Over the next few weeks I have a few small sumo related posts I want to make . . . but for the most part this is going to put the topic to bed until the banzuke for November is announced sometime around Halloween.